Daily Poem: Vermeer’s Pearl ~ Lloyd Schwartz

October 16, 2018 | Filed Under Poem for Hela | No Comments

Vermeer’s Pearl
~ Lloyd Schwartz

I used to boast that I never lived in a city without a Vermeer.

—You do now, a friend pointed out, when the one Vermeer in my city
was stolen.

It’s still missing.

The museum displays its empty frame.

But there are eight Vermeers in New York, more than any other city—
and not so far away.

Sometimes even more.

Once, the visiting Vermeer was one of his most beloved paintings.

It was even more beautiful than I remembered.

A young girl, wearing a turban of blue and yellow silk, is just turning
her face to watch you entering the room.

She seems slightly distracted by someone a little off to your right, maybe
someone she knows better than you.

Her mouth is slightly open, as if she’s just taken a breath and is about
to speak.

The light falling on her is reflected not only on her large pearl earring
but also in her large shining eyes (“Those are pearls,” sings Ariel of a
man drowned in a tempest at sea,”that were his eyes”).

And on her moist lips.

There’s even a little spot of moisture in a corner of her mouth.

Some art historians think this was not intended to be a portrait, just a
study of a figure in an exotic costume.

Yet her presence is so palpable, she seems right there in the room with
you, radiating unique and individual life.

Already in the museum is another Vermeer in which a woman writing
a letter has a similar pearl earring.

She’s interrupted by her maid handing her a letter—is it from the person
she’s just been writing to?

And in a nearby museum there’s a painting of a young woman with
piercing eyes and another enormous pearl dangling from her ear (a
“teardrop pearl”).

She’s staring out a window and tuning a lute.

Scholars tell us that these pearls aren’t really pearls—no pearl so large
has ever come to light.

No oyster could be big enough.

So the famous pearl is probably just glass painted to look like a pearl.

Pearl of no price.

Yet as you look, the illusion of the pearl—the painted pearl, glistening,
radiant, fragile, but made real by the light it radiates—becomes before
your eyes a metaphor for the girl wearing it.

Or if not the girl, then Vermeer’s painting of her.


Girl with a Pearl Earring, oil on canvas, 1665.


Daily Poem: Little Allegory ~ Peter Cooley

October 15, 2018 | Filed Under Poem for Hela | No Comments

Little Allegory
~ Peter Cooley

“I’m not the kind of heaven you thought you’d find,”
the sky said, spreading itself across the floor

here, in the kitchen, its gold leaf freaked and split
as it appeared and disappeared and stained

the morning with its radiance.
“And furthermore,

you’re not my idea of a prophet or a sage.
But here we are, plain-speaking in blank verse.

Look, I’m all the transcendence you will find today
if you’ll just step into my shifting path—

light, shadow, light—chiaroscuro, painters call it.”
And this is when the dust motes spin, haloes

each one, around an angel on the air,
and this is how my story suspends, there

where I am leaping, dancing, rising as I speak,
no difference between my step and the supernal,

every note a grace note, that deep, high music.


Weekly Insight from the Oracles for October 15, 2018

October 14, 2018 | Filed Under Weekly Insight | No Comments

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Doing the Homework

October 13, 2018 | Filed Under Devotions, History, Things I Think About | No Comments

I fell into a Tumblr discussion yesterday about the need to read as part of developing a spiritual practice. This was a discussion among heathens, so the reading was specifically focused on the sagas and lore, but it applies to any spiritual practice.

There are many ways to work with the gods, and for many people, the easiest thing is to set up an altar and do devotions, and call it good. As with any relationship, however, the more you put into it, the more you find in it.

I tend to fall into intellectual detachment far too easily, so early on, I did some reading, but mostly I focused on doing things to get out of my head. I needed some active experience of the work to create a connection to the work.

As I become more comfortable in my active practice, I picked up the pace of my reading. Understanding the lore and history (however it may be spun by any particular author) helped me connect more deeply with my beliefs, because I can analyze the words and think about what was said, what the original text and context and intent might have been, and how to take what is old and apply it to what I’m doing now. That work deepens my devotional practice, and my devotional practice deepens my understanding and appreciation of the writings.

Some people argue that reading the lore isn’t necessary or helpful, because it’s “not the original version” or “it’s not true, it’s just stories”. No, we don’t know what “the original version” was—or, rather, versions, because each area had its own variations on the gods and myths. Yes, the versions we have now were captured through the lens of outsiders who put their own spin on it, and then adding in the vagaries and changes introduced by well-intentioned but flawed translations, and it’s even further removed from whatever the original versions may have been. That means it’s the same as any other recorded myth or history—spun, altered, diluted—but it’s what we have to work with. Again, our job is to read and analyze it in the context of its place and time in order to understand where it might have come from, and what it may have once been.

Other people object to reading because they don’t want to restrict their practice to what was purportedly done a thousand years ago—not to mention that there are significant holes to fill in the stories. The history is a starting point, but it isn’t a limit on your devotional work. It’s a foundation. We don’t limit ourselves in our daily lives to what was common practice and available knowledge in a particular era of history, and there’s no reason to limit our spiritual practice in such a way, either.

So, yes, you can skip the homework, but why would you deny yourself that that connection to the past, and the opportunity to make more of your present?



Daily Poem: Anticipation ~ Amy Lowell

October 12, 2018 | Filed Under Poem for Hela | No Comments

~ Amy Lowell

I have been temperate always,
But I am like to be very drunk
With your coming.
There have been times
I feared to walk down the street
Lest I should reel with the wine of you,
And jerk against my neighbours
As they go by.
I am parched now, and my tongue is horrible in my mouth,
But my brain is noisy
With the clash and gurgle of filling wine-cups.


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